ta.sfiye se dil me;N mere mu;Nh na:zar aataa hai lek
kyaa karuu;N aa))iinah saa;N mai;N ;hasrat-e diidaar ko

1) through clearing/purification, in my heart, a face comes into view, but
2) what can I, like a mirror, do with the longing for sight/vision?



ta.sfiyah : 'Clearing, making clear; clearance; purifying (particularly the mind from ill-will); purification, purgation; purity'. (Platts p.325)


saa;N is an archaic form of saa .


diidaar : 'Sight, vision ... ; look, appearance; face, countenance, cheek'. (Platts p.556)

S. R. Faruqi:

ta.sfiyah = clearing of the heart

This is among that rare kind of verses about which it's difficult to say whether their true beauty lies in the uniqueness of the theme, or in the simile that has been brought in so as to 'prove' the theme.

First of all, look at the theme. Among the 'people of the heart', the clearing of the heart is a very big thing. By 'clearing of the heart' is meant to clear the heart of all impurities, so that the Divine Beauty would be able to be reflected in it. Some venerable elders have construed 'clearing of the heart' as a spiritual power that's in the heart of the mystical knower.

Here, what's being said is that because of the 'clearing of the heart' a rank has been attained such that God Most High is manifested in my heart, and I can even see Him. But 'seeing' Him in the mirror of the heart doesn't give satisfaction, because I have a desire for sight/vision. From this we learn that that the real desire is for a 'divine meeting'-- that I would be able to see Him before me. Or if we take the verse as concerning worldly love, then the point is that the beloved is illumining the heart, but I want to see her face to face.

In both cases, bodily experience is being given preference over spiritual experience. Even by Mir himself, such a verse is not composed every day.

I have called a 'divine meeting' a bodily experience because according to Islamic belief, sight of the Most High Creator will be vouchsafed. It's clear that God not only is boundless, but also is not at all dependent on a body or a physical habitation. But this is the belief, and in the light of this belief, God the Most High will create one or another aspect such that mankind would be able to see Him.

Now, let's turn to the 'proof'. He has made his heart free of impurities to such an extent that a reflective power like that of a mirror has entered into it. But the melancholy of a mirror is that in it a face is manifest, but the mirror itself has no eyes, it is blind. Thus even if a face would become visible in the mirror, the mirror's longing for sight remains. What more complete proof than this can there be?



In the ghazal world, the mirror is traditionally made of metal (though glass ones do exist too); a metal mirror is the only kind for which 'clearing' or cleaning must regularly be done to remove the rainy-season verdigris and discoloration. Such a mirror is often imagined as an eye; the tiny scratches left on its surface by the vigorous scrubbing that enables it to 'see' are (like) eyelashes, and this round eye is wide open in the hope of seeing the beloved. For such a mirror, 'seeing' the beloved means capturing the beloved's image in its 'eye'. What else could it mean? The mirror is its own 'eye'.

Sufistically speaking, the heart can be a mirror, because if it's vigorously 'cleared' and polished, it can reflect the Divine glory. Such polishing is usually taken to be a difficult, painful process, and one that must constantly be renewed as fresh impurities collect. So for it to be successful, to the point where success can almost off-handedly be reported, is rare. We might expect the speaker to be rapturous-- after all, the mirror of his heart reflects God! But he's not, he has raised a fresh complaint. He continues to feel a 'longing for sight'; apparently that means he wants to see the beloved with his eyes rather than his heart. All right, since the lover is infinitely desirous, why not long for that too?

But then, why does this new longing make him 'like a mirror'? In the ghazal world, to reflect, and thus 'see', the beloved, is the mirror's great desire. The verse conveys the perspective of the speaker, and the complaint is made by him. But would the heart-mirror really share his complaint? SRF says that the mirror is melancholy because it has no eyes and is blind. I've encountered many verses that imagine the mirror as an eye, but I can't recall a single one that imagines the mirror as eyeless (and thus blind).

That point about the mirror being envisioned as eyeless and thus blind kept bothering me, and I finally emailed SRF and asked if that really was a theme, and if he would send me a couple of examples so I could get a fix on it. He replied (Sept. 2016),

'Anyway, sorry I couldn't find any instance of the mirror's blindness in the poetry or the dictionary. It must have been my own notion. The mirror (because it is metallic) is often described as 'rusted', which diminishes its reflectivity. But obviously that's not the case here. Maybe I had some Persian or Urdu shi'r in mind when I wrote that thing about the mirror's blindness. At present I must regard it as something that I invented.'

Thus to me that aa))iinah saa;N remains mysteriously intriguing. Perhaps it means that the longing for a sight, for a vision, is essential and thus unassuageable. It's part of the nature of a mirror to be perpetually open in all the 'six directions', always instantly ready to reflect and thus 'see' new sights. Perhaps the heart too has this quality-- even after achieving a divine sight or vision, it cannot help but reach out ardently to 'see' something more.